I read reviews of books, movies, restaurants, even art. Often, I know I won’t read / see / visit the subject of the review, in which case I especially appreciate spoilers. (This is the only way I can handle horror stories.)
This morning, I read a piece in which two authors bandied about favorite books and authors in a genre I hadn’t heard of: fantasy noir. I followed leads to several references. One particular author had written a biography of Richard Brautigan, author of Trout Fishing in America, among others.
I read several of Brautigan’s works in my (pre-)teens. I remember liking his stuff. (The biography looks good, too.) But there were a couple of works that didn’t come up in my search. And that led me to the realize I was thinking of another author: William Kotzwinkle, who wrote a book I *loved* at the time, Elephant Bangs Train (short stories). To this day, I think now and then about A Most Incredible Meal, especially when a celebration ignores a tragedy, which happens quite often.
But, what about Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle? I’d misattributed that to Brautigan, as well. I find now it was from an eclectic collection of poems by then-modern poets. Looking at the table of contents online, I don’t recognize any of the titles, but this one stuck through the years.
Learning involves building connections, particularly non-linear and tangential. We laugh at recalling minutia from decades ago while forgetting what day it is today, but to get a hint of what lies below the surface — the depth of knowledge and experience we might plumb — is a delight. The mind amuses and amazes. You’re never alone once you befriend yourself.
Downtown. Ah, I still love Petula Clark 50+ years later. You could tell me she was an antifeminist, homophobic racist, and I would still love her (with some judgement — but understand, that was rhetorical, she’s as innocent as can be, as far as I know). Downtown pops up in my workout playlist at least once a week. Nowadays, the song has taken on a ‘chamber of commerce’ feel — hey, everybody, free parking after 6pm Downtown! I don’t know if I originally caught the wistful melancholy, but it’s still groovy, man.
“Just like downtown.” My high school chemistry teacher, Mr Kapriva, used to say “just like downtown,” explaining for the benefit of his young charges that it meant “cool.” Mr Kapriva liked me because I sat in the front row and wore a tie and carried a briefcase. (It was an act of rebellion, at the time — the 60s lasted until 1973.) Each day, he would acknowledge my tie. It seemed to kill him that I bought my ties at a drugstore (3 for $5). Just like downtown.
Mr Kapriva had great hopes for my academic potential but did little to enhance it, though he was kind enough to give me a medal at the end of the year. It wasn’t until college that I had serious lab experience, which taught me I love cleaning glass but hate memorizing highly structured data. (I need to build my own structure.)
Mr Kapriva’s chemistry colleague, Mr Palmer, might have been a better teacher. Certainly, their colleague, Mr Duncan, intimidated the hell out of me (which is why I never studied physics except to the extent it inevitably overlaps chemistry and math).
I liked Kapriva but my favorite teachers were able to make me feel special while insisting I prove it. Like Ms Kraft (Algebra) and Mr Kokonis (Calculus).
“Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you … You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares” Downtown. Cool.
[with respect and gratitude to Virginia Woolf]
I spend hours each day in one room of our house. Many years ago, this room was our bedroom. Then, it was an office we shared (briefly), before it became my office / our guest room (with foldout couch). During a remodel, it became our bedroom again. Now, I think of it as our tv room, given most vestiges of my office have gone. Though it is “our” room, I’ve felt comfortable outfitting it unilaterally. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Start with the corner that used to have a stand-up desk I built. Now, it’s a nook. I’ve documented the wall of photos elsewhere. The chair was Merri’s mom’s. Mer spent many hours there in her youth; I commandeered it during visits to her mom’s house. On the floor in front of the chair is a futon — a terrific place for a nap. You might note the wall of photos is white; the wall with the window is light green; those colors meet again in the opposite corner. (Long ago, that white wall was Taos turquoise — so vibrant people stepped back when they saw it.)
Passing the north window with the Japanese-style paper shade featuring cranes, the next corner used to hold a sit-down desk I built. Now, it’s stuffed with exercise gear, a part of my effort to keep the grave at bay.
Pass the double-wide east window to the recliner-couch, a second-hand revelation. Next to the bookcase is a wooden crate I stole from my college roommate (he knew about it). Fitting, since theft would surely be an honor code at UVa (diploma normally hidden by the door).
And the tv, which most often is a very large computer monitor connected to a tower in the nook.
I’ve glided past some art. Least obvious is an African mask that holds my wireless headphones. I love loud music while I work out. This leaves 4 bird images. The red cardinal I bought for my Mom a lifetime ago. The cardinal was her spirit animal (her daemon). Nearest it is a fabric peacock with chrysanthemum. This was also hers, possibly before my birth; she painted the frame. Most recently, I’ve added the gorgeous cerulean warbler (above the tv) and the great great horned owl (behind some gear). I bought them as indulgences at the start of the new normal, the age of staying home. (Both are by Linda Apple, who came to me via my friend AE.)
Time spent in this room would better expose my few knickknacks: silver baby cups, cobra candlesticks (Dad’s), a Himalayan salt lamp. There is Teddy, my bear who rode on Mom’s coffin to the graveyard, the monkey, my beanie babies (cardinal & wolf), two giant mugs (“Think BIG” says one from Mom), the books. The double-door closet (below) is STUFFED with a hodgepodge of electronics & photography gear, plus a few clothes.
Now, you have an insight into my daily life: hours on that couch, looking at that tv (mostly on the Web, reviewing photos, or journaling). Plus, 30-60 minutes most days working out to a mix of oldies and less-so. Mer and I watch comedies in the evening; I watch sci fi now and then. The dogs come and go as they please. (We got the larger couch to accommodate us four.) Life is good. (We are lucky.)
[no apologies to Rod Stewart]
These pictures span 40 years of my life, up until 25 years ago. Most have been languishing in the garage for ages. I like uncluttered walls for the most part, despite what you see here, which is one reason it took me most of a year to put these up, tucked in a corner of a room, half-hidden by a bookcase.
Start with the three photos of me as a baby (well, 5 pictures. if you count each in the triptych).
In the upper-right (or center) are my Mom and Dad in college. (Damn, he had great hair. I more resemble my bald-pated maternal grandfather in that regard.)
Farthest left, as they would like it, are my brother, Dan, and his wife, Sharon, after tennis 37 years ago). Below them, my sister, Elizabeth and her two daughters, JoanE and Julianne (look closely).
Below my parents, central to my second life, are The Droogs. “My friends — I made them myself.” Above: we are teens by the Dart in front of Pine Street, all part of the mythology. That photo was taken by Michal Patten. Below: nearly 10 years later, behind Preston Road. Photo by Merri Rudd.
In the lower left, a photo I took of the market in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The artwork on the right is a drawing by Steve O’Neill (“The Easter Egg Hunt,” above, with a photobomb) and a painting by Jas Mullany (“Iconographic Mark” at 40, foreshadowing 47).
People who are hugely important to me are missing here only because I don’t have large prints of them (the organizing principle of this display). They (you) abound in photo albums and thousands of digital photos I see every day. So many stories.
Note to gun owners: I don’t give a damn about your gun. I think guns are deadly. I think owning a gun is foolish. I think owning more than one gun is madness. (I think military weapons should be illegal.) I’m free to have these opinions just as you are free to have your guns. As long as your goddamn guns aren’t used to threaten people, to cause violence, to kill, or to demonstrate your smug moral superiority or terror, you can dress them up in hats and call them your girls, as far as I’m concerned. So, let’s drop this bullshit part of the “Culture War” that others exploit to keep us all riled up and distracted from the fact that the Rich want more, more, more.
I am sick with sorrow and rage. Sorrow over the endless cruelty of others (in particular, white men), sick of a lifetime witnessing people hate, abuse, rape, torment, and murder other human beings they don’t like.
I’m enraged by the certainty that today, more than one cop will murder more than one black person under circumstance in which a white person might not even be inconvenienced. Guaranteed. The people who could stop that — the bad cops’ coworkers, supervisors, friends, and family — know these future killers but will do NOTHING to stop them. Tomorrow, the bystanders may share our shock and dismay but today they wait, as we all do, for the next murder, and the one after that, and again and again and again. It could be stopped but we won’t stop it. I’m sorry.
I’m an old white guy who literally could not be more comfortable or secure, if not for my humanity and empathy. I can only imagine the dread that hangs over black people, has hung over them for centuries. How has that not ground them to a pulp? Even if the pressure made them into diamonds, it wasn’t worth it for any of us.
This has to STOP today, not tomorrow, not after the election or a study, TODAY. No more abuse, no more murder. If you live with a bad cop, a racist, a dick, do something: report them, fire them, break their gun hand — I stop myself short of saying kill them, even though I know they will not stop themselves. We must stop them together NOW.